02/25/2017 7:52PM

Unified breaks sharp, never looks back in Gulfstream Park Sprint

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Leslie Martin/Coglianese Photos
Unified paid $6.60 in winning the Gulfstream Park Sprint.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Unified put his abundant speed on display again Saturday, taking control of the $100,000 Gulfstream Park Sprint from the outset and never looking back en route to a neck victory over the odds-on Mind Your Biscuits for his third graded stakes win in just five career starts.

Making his first start since finishing far back in the Grade 3 Pegasus eight months earlier at Monmouth Park, Unified broke alertly from his inside post and was quickly urged clear by jockey Jose Ortiz Jr. Once clearing off, Unified rated kindly on the front end, setting opening splits of 22.37 and 44.71 while stalked by Early Entry. Unified shook well clear when roused at the top of the stretch, then was able to hold safe the belated bid from Mind Your Biscuits despite never switching off his left lead.

Mind Your Biscuits, racing for the first time since capturing the Grade 1 Malibu in his 3-year-old finale, was reserved well off the early leader in the run down the backstretch. He advanced five wide while still in hand turning for home, before finishing willingly once finally set down near the three-sixteenths pole, only to fall just short with his final surge. Squadron A rallied from last to finish third without menacing the top two.

Unified, a son of Candy Ride, won the Grade 3 Bay Shore and Grade 2 Peter Pan during the spring 2016 campaign, after having broken his maiden in sensational fashion making his career debut here last winter. Owned by Centennial Farms and trained by Jimmy Jerkens, Unified completed 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.30 and paid $6.60.

“He’s a fast horse, he proved that last year, and he trained really super the last three weeks,” Jerkens said. “He didn’t really like breaking from the [post position] 1, but when you’re fresh like this and come popping out of there, you end up being the best speed. I know he’s not going to like someone crossing over in front of him, throwing dirt in his face, so I said (to Ortiz) as long as he breaks, go on with it.”

Jerkens said he was not concerned by the fact Unified remained on his left lead through the stretch.

“He’s a little stubborn about it in the morning, but sometimes you can get horses too riled up and rank if you worry about it too much,” Jerkens said. “Jose said he didn’t make a big deal of it because he was running, and free-running horses, you’ve got to leave them alone.”

Jerkens said he really didn’t have anything picked out for Unified’s next start, but said the Met Mile could be a goal down the road.  

Mind Your Biscuits trainer Chad Summers was gracious in defeat.    

“Unified is a really nice horse,” Summers said. “Let’s take nothing away from him. He got away on an early lead and ran a great race. But I thought our horse also ran great. Like I’ve said, our end goal is Dubai (Golden Shaheen) a month from today.”